Detecting Fake Identification Documents

Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine whether or not the identification documents presented by a new hire are legitimate. Thankfully, you are not required to be a documents expert, but only to exercise “reasonable care” to ensure that the documents are valid… in other words, that they are not an obvious forgery. But when they are an apparently fake card, you are expected to take additional steps to ensure that you don’t hire an unauthorized worker.

What You Should Do

Normally, you may not specify which identification documents are presented by the new hire, but must accept documents that reasonably appear to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting them. Only if the documents are obvious fakes, if they are not on the list of accepted documents or are not related to the person presenting them may you require another document. Even then, you may not specify which replacement document the new hire will provide.

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If the individual cannot present other documents that satisfy the requirements of the I-9 form and E-Verify, you may terminate employment. If you terminate employment at this time, you should not submit the worker to us for verification.

You must apply the same standard of “reasonableness” to all new hires. If the documents presented are on the list of accepted documents and are related to the new hire but you are not sure whether or not the documents are legitimate, you should complete the I-9 process and submit for verification.

Examples of Fraudulent Cards*

The following are examples of identification documents that we believe to be counterfeit.

Fake Permanent Resident Card

Example 1. Spelling errors are a reliable indication that a card is not valid.

Example 2. In this example, a spelling error is accompanied by a usage error (“The peron identification by this card…”)

Fake Permanent Resident Card Example

Example 3: Some spelling and usage errors are more difficult to see. In this example, the error on the left reads “MADE IN THE FOR THE US. IMIGRATION AND….”

Incorrect Form Number: The Permanent Resident Card form number is “I-551” (“Eye dash five five one”) and the Employment Authorization Document is “I-766.” In the example above, the number reads “1-551” (“One dash five five one”). We have also seen “I-531,” “I-3-2-1,” “I-736” and others.

Fake Permanent Resident Card

Example 4: The Permanent Resident Card Document Number (highlighted in yellow; on back of newer cards) should be three letters followed by ten numbers and usually located in the top line. A Document Number of nine or 11 digits, or no document number at all, may mean that the card is a fake.

There are several different versions of the Permanent Resident Card in circulation. Older cards do not have a Document Number. On newer cards, the Document Number is on the back. Newer cards also contain more security features including holographic images.

Permanent Resident Card (“Green Card”) Version (5.11.10)

In May 2010, the USCIS issued a newly-redesigned and more secure Permanent Resident Card:

Newly Redesigned Green Card

Card Forged from Valid Card Sample

Some card forgers have apparently copied sample valid cards found online. On the fraudulent card below (on the right), the fingerprint matches the print on the example card, an impossibility:

Forged card with same fingerprint as example Permanent Resident Card
Example card (left) has been copied by forgers. Note the matching fingerprint (right).

Incorrect Issue Period

Permanent Resident cards are issued for either a two-year period or a 10-year period. A time period (issue date to expiration date) of any other term may indicate a fraudulent card. The issue period should not be the only reason that you reject a document as fraudulent.

Permanent Resident Card Bought Online

This card was bought at a German site,, that sells fraudulent cards. Note the web site URL at the bottom of the card face:

americandream fake green card


Our client employers: We are available to answer your general questions about identification documents; however, we cannot help you with specific cases. The burden of “reasonableness” is on you. If you’re not reasonably confident that the card is a fake, submit the new hire for verification.

More about Permanent Resident Cards

Green cards issued between 1979 and August 1989 do not have expiration dates and do not have to be renewed. Cards issued before 1989 when the holder was a child may be renewed, but it is not required.

Older version of the alien registration card (e.g., USCIS Form AR-3, Form AR-103 or Form I-151) are no longer valid and must be replaced.

* The US Citizenship & Immigration Service has not verified that the specific examples used above are actually fraudulent documents. They are presented as examples of the most obvious issues that you may encounter. None of these cards were presented by a new hire who subsequently received an “Employment Authorized” response.

[Last update: 04.08.19 . This page may be updated as more examples of fraudulent cards are identified.]